Technology trends in staffing, the shortage of qualified workers and speculation about the next recession were topics during Staffing Industry Analysts’ Healthcare Staffing Summit, taking place this week in Denver.

The event brought together executives from healthcare staffing firms across the US and drew more than 700 people.

SIA Research Director Tony Gregoire delivered a keynote speech on the environment for healthcare and healthcare staffing. Revenue growth in the healthcare staffing industry has been decelerating. Gregoire noted US healthcare temporary staffing revenue grew 7% in 2017 to $16.2 billion — down from a rate of 15% in 2016. And while growth is projected to be 3% this year, it is expected to accelerate to 4% in 2019.

However, Gregoire said projections for 2020 are murkier, with the possibility of a recession increasing.

“The risk (of a recession) is always there, but think in 2020 it becomes more substantial,” he said. Two-thirds of economists polled by the National Association of Business Economics projected a recession by the end of 2020.

And when it comes to technology, healthcare has been slower than other industries to adopt vendor management systems. They remained a controversial topic with some executives preferring a direct connection with clients. But one executive, Alan Braynin, CEO of Aya Healthcare, said he sees VMS and MSP taking a large percentage of the healthcare staffing marketplace going forward.

CEOs of some of the largest healthcare staffing firms in a panel discussion also allowed that online staffing/human cloud could bring efficiencies, and some workers will happily go through a recruiting process entirely online. But added the human factor will likely always be needed.

Success for healthcare staffing firms in the future will be at the intersection between digital and interpersonal, said Scott Beck, CEO of CHG Healthcare.

“Technology will get you to a certain point,” said Andrew Limouris, president and CEO of healthcare staffing firm Medix, during a panel discussion on allied healthcare. But the human factor will remain.

Another concern was the shortage of qualified healthcare workers. Job openings in “US healthcare and social assistance” jobs has been trending greater than the rate of hires since 2013, according to a keynote presentation.

Char Talmadge, national director, Interim Healthcare, put it succinctly during a panel on per diem nurse staffing: “There’s not enough nurses.”

The conference concludes today.